The Dreamers – Karen Thompson

Summary:

A strange new disease has hit the town of Santa Lora, a viral sleeping sickness that first evidences on the college campus, then quickly envelopes the whole town.

Main Characters:

Mei: Shy, introverted, and first time away from her mother’s controlling influence, it Is she who first discovers her sleeping roommate Kara.

Rebecca: From a highly religious family, she takes advantage of college life to the full, before succumbing.

Sara and Libby: The animal-loving pre-teen sisters whose down-at-heel yet highly protective father has been preparing for just such a dystopian eventuality, with a basement full of provisions to last for years.

Minor Characters:

Catherine: A high-powered psychiatrist, she is stranded in the town, and having to rely on others to look after her far-away young daughter.

Ben: Suspicious about his wife’s potential affair, he moved them to this town to start over, but finds himself at sea when having to care for his young baby as Ann falls asleep.

Plot:

Kara, a female college student, goes to bed one night in her Californian campus, and simply falls asleep. The problem is, she slips into a deep, deep sleep from which she cannot be woken. Her condition stymies the local doctors, but she is just the first victim of a sleeping sickness that builds slowly, one at a time, until over 7,000 people of the town of Santa Lora are, inexplicably, asleep.

As the story breaks nationwide, and then internationally, the US government places a cordon sanitaire around the town, and effects a military rule.

The initial victims are those in Kara’s dorm, and doctors struggle to classify what is happening, Brain activity is measured as being at frenetically high levels – but they don’t know why.

The sickness inevitably spreads, and people take to gathering together in open rather than enclosed spaces. Fear and paranoia grow, as people dread falling asleep in case they don’t wake, and lack of sleep keeps people  nervously on edge.

Mei becomes energised, and focuses her efforts on helping others (which is her subplot to impress a boy!), until she too falls victim.

Sara and Libby had to fend for themselves, as their father fell asleep, and no-one knew they were in their house. Their father was one of the relatively few to wake up, but was a changed man, who began speaking about his visions.

What I Liked:

  • The premise was interesting, though of course variations have been done before.
  • The description of how inter-connected we all are was well done.

What I Didn’t Like:

  • I did not engage with any of the characters. They were uninteresting and not developed, with the slight exception of the two little girls and Mei.
  • There were a lot of roads the author travelled down, but didn’t reach a destination e.g. was there a link between the ancient and disappearing lake and the illness?
  • It was hard to suspend belief at time – would you let your kid run around at Hallowe’en, in the midst of an unexplained and uncontrolled epidemic? You would in Santa Lora!

Overall:

This was a book I’d heard a good bit about, but was disappointed when I got to finally read it, for the above reasons and some others. I was left with a sense of there being so much more that could have been done with this – e.g. by focusing on fewer characters and breathing more life into them, developing a greater sense of terror and fear, and not leaving so many loose ends.

Acknowledgements:

Thanks to my fantastic local library – SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL LIBRARY!!

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